A tale of two cards

“Building a visionary company requires one percent vision and 99 percent alignment.” —Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, Built to Last

And I believe the alignment needs to show not in meetings but on the ground – in customer interactions, in every process and the decision making across all levels.

A recent experience drove home the point very clearly.

Background: Over the years, I have consolidated all my credit cards to just two – one from HDFC and another from a MNC bank. And yes both are Visa !

I have also been using my HDFC Credit card as the primary one, with reasonably high and regular monthly spends. And the bank’s team has followed up with me to increase my credit limit. But I didn’t as I didnt feel the need.

For those who of you who are not from the payments industry – a line increase is a key action to get a higher share of a customer’s spends while balancing the associated risks.

On my other card, I just have a standing instruction where a small amount is billed every month. That card has rarely been used beyond this singular, recurring transaction. And almost 90% of the available limit goes un-utilized each cycle.

Strategy Vs Execution - A tale of two cards

The story : Last month, I had to make a big payment and I was looking to split it across the two credit cards.

I used my other card first thinking that it has a significant limit available. My transaction got declined because I remembered my limit inaccurately and had attempted a transaction above the available limit.

I then checked my available limit on my HDFC card (in the last SMS notification) and decided to split my transaction on my HDFC card into two separate transactions – trying to avoid any risk-based decline.

Immediately got a call from the risk call-center of the bank – to confirm if these were genuine transactions. And post my confirmation, the lady at the other end mentioned that I have now exhausted almost 95% of my limit. She also asked if I wanted to double my limit in the next 1 minute – on the same call.

Given this is my primary credit card – I said yes and after responding to a few questions to verify/validate my identity my limit was doubled. Right there in the call.

I loved the contrast in the experience across the two banks:

  • Revenue focus – HDFC converted a cost center unit (the high value transaction confirmation call center) into a portfolio intervention team that helps drive positive revenue impact
  • Understanding consumer journey and needs – HDFC team knew that for a highly active card, a 95% limit utilization is probably when a customer needs line increase. One may argue that number of customers who may go through such a scenario is very low. But look at the efficiency and the high levels of conversion. Do you want to keep investing in emailers and calls/SMS for line enhancement but not look at specific instances in a customer’s journey where the conversion probability is highest. And friction is the least.
  • Lost Opportunity – The MNC bank missed a huge opportunity. For a customer who is not regular, it is tough to remember the total limit or track available limit. And here was a big ticket transaction attempt. A call-back/notification to confirm the limits, may have gotten them the transaction and may be higher spends in future.

These are the customer interactions that decide the winner in the hyper competitive world we operate in – how organizations understand and respond therein.